Pursuing a Bold Vision to Combat Childhood Obesity

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By Maren Stewart; President and CEO of LiveWell Colorado- Denver
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LiveWell Colorado is undertaking the bold – yet achievable – goal of ensuring all children in Colorado have access to and choose healthy food at school by 2022.

At LiveWell Colorado, we strongly believe that Colorado has what it takes to be the first state in the country to achieve this lofty vision and help reverse our state’s devastating childhood obesity epidemic.

In Colorado, nearly a quarter of our children are overweight or obese. With a ranking of 23rd in the country, Colorado’s childhood obesity rate is rising at the second-fastest rate of increase in the country.

Fortunately, there are impactful ways that we can create systemic and sustainable changes to help reverse these trends.

Schools offer the unique opportunity to improve children’s access to the nutrition necessary for their growing minds and bodies. In Colorado, nearly 400,000 children participate in the national lunch program, with upwards of 40 percent qualifying for free or reduced lunch. Many of these children receive their only source of balanced nutrition during the school day.

The LiveWell@School Healthy Food Initiative aims to increase both the supply of and demand for healthy foods at schools. This two-pronged approach focuses on improving school food environments and encouraging healthy choices. To accomplish this goal, we’re implementing a comprehensive, multi-faceted strategy combining several components, including school meal assessments, culinary training, mobile chef advisors, and student engagement and nutrition education.

Of course, none of this work would be possible – and our compelling vision would not be achievable – without the dedication and financial support of individuals and organizations committed to improving the health of our children and state.

LiveWell Colorado is launching an individual giving campaign that seeks major gifts to help us achieve our vision. The campaign, with a goal to raise at least $20 million over ten years, is comprised of three phases that will help build capacity and expand both the supply and demand efforts in schools throughout Colorado.

I am thrilled to announce that our individual giving campaign has been kicked off with an extremely generous gift of $1 million from Rob Katz, CEO of Vail Resorts, and his wife Elana Amsterdam. We are deeply grateful for their gift and for the inspiration it will generate in other potential donors. Rob’s and Elana’s vision and leadership are exemplary and critical to ensuring this type of systemic policy and environmental change.

Their gift is truly transformational. Not only does it provide a strong foundation for our school food vision, it also will result in changes that will benefit generations to come.

We hope that others will follow the inspirational lead of Rob and Elana.

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